Smart phone applications – as diverse as pedometers, yoga instructions, calorie counters, heart rate monitors and workout planners and trackers – are the latest tools for people wanting to get or stay in shape. Physical therapists and trainers who specialize in working with people with arthritis say fitness apps can be a good thing if they are used wisely.

“I’m for anything that makes it easier for people to exercise or motivates them to exercise,” says Julie Keysor, PhD, associate professor and director of the Center for Enhancing Activity and Participation among Persons with Arthritis, or ENACT, at Boston University. Fitness apps can help by tracking people’s progress and giving them a sense of accomplishment that encourages them to continue exercising.

Apps also can open people’s eyes to fitness options they may not have considered, says Val Walkowiak, medical integration coordinator at the Loyola Center for Fitness in Maywood, Ill. “When you are first starting an exercise program you don’t know what is going to work for you and what isn’t. It’s all about trial and error,” says Walkowiak, a personal trainer who designs exercise programs for people with arthritis and other medical conditions. “Fitness apps have value, because they give people exposure to different exercise modalities from which to pick and choose.”

But both experts say it’s important to consult your doctor, physical therapist or physical trainer experienced in working with arthritis before you begin a new exercise program. And, in the case of specific exercises, including yoga poses, it’s best to first learn them from a qualified instructor rather than pictures on your phone’s small screen and then use apps to guide and encourage you once you have some experience with them, says Walkowiak.

If you’re ready to give fitness apps a try, here are six apps worth considering. But, first, of course, consult your doctor or other health professional.

All-In Pedometer

What it offers: a precise way to count steps, monitor distance and time spent walking, as well as your speed at the moment, average speed and how many calories you have burned. This app also helps you determine the type and intensity of exercise you need to reach individualized weight and fitness goals and allows you to enjoy your favorite music while you do it.

Available for: iPhone, iPod touch

IMapMy

What it offers: fitness tracking using your phone’s built-in GPS monitor. Use it to record the details of your workout (separate versions for walking, bicycling, hiking) including duration, distance, pace, speed and elevation, calories burned and route traveled on an interactive map. Sync with a heart-rate monitor to save and upload information about your workout to MapMyFitness.com.

Available for: Android, Blackberry iPhone, iPod touch